tv Your Business MSNBC August 2, 2014 2:30am-3:01am PDT
the owners of this company key in on what their customers need when they're forced to boot strap it. and decreasing the hours in resources to increase profits and happiness. why sometimes less is more, coming up next on "your business." small businesses are revitalizing the economy and american express open is here to
help. that's why we're proud to present "your business" on msnbc. >> hi, there everyone. welcome to "your business" where we give you advice and information on the issues that affect america's entrepreneurs. new data shows over the last 17 years, women who own small businesses have increased an astounding 68%, but according to the democrats those women are missing out when it comes to loan. the new report claims that while women own 30% of small businesses they only receive 4.4% of conventional small business loans. and just 7% of venture capital funding. the report also says that women own businesses are only being rewarded 4% of government
contracts. media entrepreneur nellie galan is the founder of a group dedicated to empowering latinas in the u.s. she testified at the senate small business meeting about the gender gap in entrepreneurship. so great to see you, nellie. >> hi, j.j. so great to be here. i'm so excited to be on the senate floor and representing entrepreneurs and latinas. >> i know. >> on the senate floor. >> i know you do so much work for women and helping them with small businesses and entrepreneurships. so get down to the cause, what is the root of this? is that not enough women are applying for loans or they're getting turned down? >> i think it starts even before that, j.j. i think there's all these opportunities for women. there are the earmarked opportunities for women and women of color and latinas, but the government doesn't market those opportunities, nor do they -- do these women even know sometimes that these opportunities exist. and then there's no training for them, because the women's business center needs to be
reauthorized for training women. so there's a combination of marketing problem and a training program. and also, i guess the reason i wanted to speak at the senate is because i also want to bridge the gap and have these women meet each other. have the latinas and the african-americans and the white women partner because some people have more experience, but other people have more experience in new kind of digital areas and other areas. and they need to partner. so it's a series of issues that don't allow women to really take advantage of all these opportunities that are out there for us. >> and, you know, harvard business school did a study where they found that a man and a woman would go in, get financing. they would do the same exact pitch and the man would get financing more than a woman. >> you know, that -- i think that is true, but i think that truthfully i think people are trusting women these days more than men. so i think if we get the right information and the right training and that's what i'm doing, i'm really pushing because i believe that women --
even with all the problems we have, this is still the best country in the world to be a woman and to be an entrepreneur. and, i mean, j.j., where else in the world could a nellie galante who is an immigrant come to this country and be self-made? nowhere else in the world. >> so this conversation has started. what do you think will come of it? >> we're hoping that some legislation gets passed. we have a lot of women senators that understand and they really want to help us. and i think we have to help them help us more. so at least from my point of view, my job is to get latinas to advocate for themselves as well. to call their senators and to say, look, we want this. you know, sometimes we also somehow think miraculously it's going to work. we have to -- we live in a democracy. the beautiful thing about a democracy we get to complain. we get to call our senators and congress people and we have to do it. my job is to get my latinas to do that. >> nellie so great to see you.
thank you so much for all you're doing on behalf of women and latinas. it's important work. i appreciate it. >> thank you, j.j. i have been involved in a bunch of start-ups in my career. some were venture backed and some boot strap. through that's experiences i've learned that lack of funding may be seen as a disadvantage it can be seen as helpful. when you don't have resources you have to get creative. as the owners of a hand made home goods company found out, when you are forced to make due with less, you come oup with th best ideas. >> everything i have seen as a limitation, previously has helped define who we are and has ultimately been one of the greatest strengths. >> when ron morris and his husband ken jones, jr., started their business, mercantile home which is a mix between home goods company and art gallery they had nothing more than an idea. >> this was a dream that did not have any sort of financing. we were never in league with the
bank. we never took out loans. probably because we couldn't get them if we had asked. >> ron and ken were in a situation familiar to many. they had what they thought was a great idea, but no obvious resources to see it through. >> we have never approached problems with this can't be overcome idea or attitude. it's always solvable. even if you have to change what the solution is. like it's solvable. >> so they were forced to be innovative. and every money saving decision they made became a part of the fabric of what the brand is today. >> we have always worked with what we had. when that's nothing, we have mined the one natural resource that know we have which is our creativity. >> that started from day one when the entire budget for the company was a $500 loan from ken's parents. that didn't get them very far. >> it bought us some fabric. it bought us the basic supplies. >> they started looking around. >> we had tons of fabric that had been collected by me since i
was little or given to me by my aunt madge and i had a chance to turn it into things other than gifts for my friends. >> everything they made from shirts to pillows was one of a kind. >> from the very beginning our objects had to be artistic, and our design principles were really flexible. >> today, even though they can afford more, they stick to their roots because it's part of their identity. and why people love their products. >> almost all the fabric goods have been given to us or we bought secondary excess, the businesses close we'll buy their inventory. again, it has to be low cost because it's not a high end thing. 100 and under is where we like to live. >> their lack of funds meant they didn't have a marketing budget. the company started in brooklyn, new york, but moved to easton, pennsylvania, where they opened their store. they took every opportunity they
got to bring customers in. >> you say hi to everybody who walks by your door. that was the first thing. >> but that wasn't enough. especially since easton itself had fallen on hard times. >> we were very aware of the challenges and needing to get people downtown, to dispel the idea that it was unsafe. we had to be a destination. we had to create reasons for them to visit. >> that's how community oriented activities became part of the mercantile home plan to get people to shop local. >> we wanted to get people talking about us, how ever they could. whether they were taking a class, or they come to the concert. if that's how they connect and get to know us, they'll learn about all the other stuff. >> these events proved to be much more beneficial than any public relations or social media campaign. >> we were doing something that we needed personally and that thing happened to be also something that the town was in need of. >> they originally created six collections to give customers reasons to come back to the store. >> if we only sold candles we
wouldn't have been able to attract the diversity of customers that we needed to come in. you had to give them note cards and you had to give them handbags and scarves and all the other stuff. >> while the number of seasonal launches is now four, the nearly constant reinvention has become a trademark of the brand and a reason for customers to return. >> everyone who i think evidently is in this town, five people at a time, i have seen it, how do we make it interesting for the five people again? oh, let's change it over and have a new collection. start changing the shop every couple of months and those five people become ten, become 40. >> the store front allows people to see how they interact with the clients. >> instantaneously, you know if you're on to the good thing. >> for customers the future of the business is personal. >> easton has totally made us. i mean, what we are in the community members, they're who
support us, they're the ones who inspire us. they show up and make suggestions. you know what you should, you know what you should make? it's a give and take relationship. >> ron and ken admit there was another frustration they struggled with at the beginning. they didn't know how to best explain their brand. >> ken and i often saw it as one of our biggest limitations when we first started, is trying to get people to understand everything that we did. because we put so much into everything that we did. we thought they needed to understand everything we did. >> like all the other challenges they have overcome this one too. they don't need to explain anything now. that's because their customers do most of the talking for them. >> folks will walk into the store and you overhear them explaining what we are to the person they brought in. and they're saying, oh, yeah, it's great. they make everything here. it's always changing, it's upside, they have classes. like we don't have to do the work anymore. >> sometimes knowing your limitations when running your
business can know when you've taken on more than you can handle. that was the case for two entrepreneurs who decided to cut back on their business. while they each did this for their own reasons, their message is the same. >> mary leonard's decision to launch her own company was a dream come true. >> the business plan was to have an online business and also be in one store during the first year or -- for the chocolates. i had four flavors. >> but that plan quickly changed before the business ever got off the ground. leonard's aspirations for an online based business were put on the back burner after her first deal failed to materialize. >> so i had to punt. a few months after that, i had a store. the majority became retail. >> the change in plans also meant a change in leonard's daily life. >> originally, my thoughts were that my -- that i was starting
more of a lifestyle business than a seven day a week business. but now it was a full-time effort. >> the retail business grew. thanks to new flavors and leonard's decision to work on events like weddings. when you add the chocolate tastings in her store's kitchen, the experience became a little overwhelming. >> it started to become physically daunting because i was up at 7:00 in the morning and i finished work at 11:00 at night. i was doing that day after day. >> and so about ten years into the very profitable life of her business, an admittedly tired leonard took drastic action. >> i jumped off the cliff again and i said, i'm closing. >> to the surprise of some customers, leonard halted production, sold all of her inventory, shut her doors, abandoned her store and took two months off. she had cut back, but she knew she wasn't closing for good. during her break, her newly focused mission became clear. >> i need to start over and have
it be what i want it to be. >> leonard wanted more joy in her life. and so she overhauled her company. >> the business will be transformed into what i want it to be. which is an internet business and a business that is for corporations, local images and the like. >> she spent the summer returning to her original plan. expanding her web presence and selling her chocolates to corporate clients. leonards slowly easing out of the retail market. leonard said it was easy to cut back and retool because she wanted to regain control of her life and her business. >> i was in a better mood every day. it gave me a new life. there was a little bit more spark in me than there was before. >> dan wedge knows a thing or two about cutting back his hours. because he's already doing it. >> being in charge of your own business tends to consume your life. and it's nice to have the idea
of something else too. >> he now closes his bookstore in albany, new york, for the first week of every month. and he has no regrets. >> i was working 50 or 60 hours a week for 21 years. not only minding the store and people expect me to be here a lot of the time, it's hard not to be here when you have a store. but also, out buying books. so almost every weekend i'd be out for at least one day, sometimes two days. buying books. and when i had other time off, i would chance. >> at first, customers were a little worried about the future of wedge's store. >> the first response tended on the -- tended to be, oh, no, we need you. i took that as a great compliment. >> wedge understands his decision to spend less time on his business could affect his revenue, but that's why he's cutting back and not calling it quits. >> i'm a natural retailer. it's what my background is. i like doing it.
i like running a store and having a place to go every day. >> wedge says he knows his plan might not work for other entrepreneurs. but he says it's an idea worth examining if you're looking to make a change. >> if they want to do something else, they have to make room for that somehow. they have to make balances in their lives and that's what i'm trying to do by doing this for myself. >> and mary leonard agrees. she says sometimes you need to do things for yourself. which may actually result in a better business. >> go to the place where you have the most enjoyment. that's where you'll be successful. >> a little thank you gift can go a long way in developing a relationship and our app of the week makes it really easy to send one. hit up app links with your phone contact so that you can buy and send a gift with a swipe of your finger. you can choose from bottles of wine, sporting event tickets, dinner reservations or hundreds of other gifts to send to your customers, partners or
employees. if you're working really hard, don't forget your spouse. ask anyone who works with me, i get antsy after about ten minutes in a meeting. but i get that they are important at times. so i'm always focused on making these meetings efficient and worthwhile. here now are five tips to conducting a productive meeting courtesy of fast company.com. one, keep meetings to 15 minutes. research says 10 to 18 minutes is how long most people can pay attention before checking out. consider setting a timer to keep yourself in check. two, take the chairs away. have the team stand up for status update meetings. a recent washington university study says standing for meetings leads to greater collaboration on ideas. three, no laptops for note taking. even though there's no real difference in factual recall, you understand concepts better when you write out your notes as opposed to typing them out. four, leave phones at the door. they're a distraction to the
work at hand and a marshall school of business survey of more than 500 professionals found that cell phone use is frowned upon by your co-workers. and five, keep meetings to ten attendees or fewer. the more time everyone gets to focus on their work load. when we come back, we answer your small business questions on whether you should outsource your taxes and new strategies to combat negative online reviews. and the winner of the student elevator pitch contest sees if he can impress our panel with his concept for a mobile maker space that brings 3-d printers to vocational schools. if i can impart one lesson to a new business owner, it would be one thing i've learned is my philosophy is real simple american express open forum is an on-line community, that helps our members connect and share ideas
to make smart business decisions. if you mess up, fess up. be your partners best partner. we built it for our members, but it's open for everyone. there's not one way to do something. no details too small. american express open forum. this is what membership is. this is what membership does. the philosophies of your company, very, very important. and i think even more importantly, it lets other people who are just starting, who have been around for a while, know there's going to be opportunity down the line. >> it's time now to answer some of your business questions.
let's get our board of directors in here to help us out. "new york times" small business columnist gene marx is the head of the marx group, a firm that provides technology and consulting services to small and medium sized businesses. and we have the ceo of the marketing zen group, a full service online marketing and digital p.r. firm. so great to see you. >> happy to be here. >> let's dive into the questions. the first is about tax time. >> we're a fast growing small business. i did the taxes and now some of my staff does. at what point do we find someone outside to do the taxes. should it rely on the income level or how much it annoys the director of collaboration? >> i don't know if you know about this, i'm a cpa. that's not the tway you want to be as a cpa, but i do say this. for my small business owner,
whether they have one or two employees, you know, you're supposed to focus on what you do best and outsource the rest. taxes, even at my company, i have ten people. it's a complex world. whether it's payroll taxes. you should have a cpa involved as early as possible. you'll spend a little extra money, but whatever you're investing that's what they do. that should happen as soon as you can. >> by the way, if you have that money, then you have all this free time. because it will make you much longer. >> in doubt, you'll probably do it wrong. >> did you ever do your own taxes? >> for the first year. a good cpa is a strong roi. so, you know -- outsource that. you might be surprised as to what you end up saving. when i let someone else do it, i realized oh, wow, i didn't realize it the deductions when i did it myself. i won't cost you that much if you're a small business. >> the answer is now. go get someone to help you now. >> right away. >> moving on this is a question about creating a collaborative environment. >> how do you go about picking the best software solution or the best systems to help your
staff communicate effectively and pass tasks on efficiently and effectively? >> i love this. when you're small, you know this, you're all sitting in the room together. i'm passing it on to you. as you grow, suddenly you need to systemize it. >> figure out your goals what type of tasks. are you looking at three people who need to work on one project or do you have multiple projects, and then i would look at finding software that fits that goal best. base camp is one, for example. it just depends on your specific needs and so the bigger your team is, the more complex you need to look for. look at reviews. that's your best friend online. start with your goals, pick a few software that you really might help you accomplish those. and then look at reviews to narrow those choices down. >> yeah. absolutely. there are a ton of good players that are out there as well. and really got to figure out if you have the culture to do it. a lot of companies, you hire
people. you have people you're trying to collaborate, and really at this stage in 2014, most of the big name applications like base camp is awesome, google apps are great, microsoft has office 365, these are all like standard applications that most small businesses are using right now. some are using them better than others only because they have a better culture for doing that. >> i think that's an important point. give people many tools, if they don't use them, that's a waste. >> follow through is everything in business. >> people get so caught up in figuring out the feature, will it do this or that? honestly at this stage, they're all pretty good. we're not all that complex, right? so it depends on whether you'll make best use of the technology. >> so dive in. to the next question, it's about negative reviews. >> i have a question around poor reviews on social media, like yelp and on amazon. i have had one person give a tremendously horrible review on a book that's really unjust.
how do we handle that? >> all right. he's talking about books but this applies across the board. you're a restaurant, a product, someone gives you a bad review. >> i have to give a shout-out to my sister. she's a doctor, she runs two offices in south philadelphia. i would not let her cut my fingernails by the way, but i'm told she's a very good doctor. she's been practicing forever. like 1,000 patients, she's up on yelp and somebody gave her a bad review, which happens, right, because it's the internet. there are a lot of knuckleheads on the internet. it just bummed her out for the entire weekend. you can't let that happen to her. because it's the internet. >> you can't let it bum you out? >> you can't. look at this guy, you can tell it really upset him. look, if you're out there, you're opening yourself up to people making comments about that. number one is you don't take it to heart. you don't let it bum you out. number two, if you're going to respond, you should always respond, take the high road. the last thing you want to do is get in a fight with somebody online. you will lose. >> i also think if you get a
couple bad reviews and it is not truly reflective, if it's reflective of your service, you have to fix it internally. but if it's not, you better bolster up that review site with some good ones. >> here's what most is small business owners realize about reviews, it can humanize. like with your sister, if you've got hundreds of really great, positive reviews, that one -- that one negative review actually makes you seem more human. makes people believe the positive reviews more just by contrast. so it can work in your favor. i think the key though is to not focus on that necessarily the negative review, but make sure you're cultivating the positive ones which most businesses don't do. they're hung up on the negative ones. >> i told vicki, she doesn't get up this early, so she's not watching. so she's got to invest in
somebody or at least some admin in her out of to keep looking at yelp. people are talking about her, they have to be ready to respond. >> someone gives a bad review, sometimes they have a good point and it's a good way to figure out what to fix if your business. if you have a question for our experts all you have to do is go to our website. we answer them every week on the show. the address is openforum.com/your business. once you get there, go to the app, the show link to submit a question for our panel. beginning with our first show eight years ago, we have preached the gospel of having a solid pitch. well, pitching has now become a staple of entrepreneurial studies at universities around the country and today's elevator pitch was the winner of the new york smart pitch challenge. let's see what our panel thinks of his consent for mobile maker space where other budding entrepreneurs can create new products. >> hi. i'm the cofounder and coo of tesla truck.
unfortunately, most of our schools and communities don't have the necessary resources to keep up with the technology, but imagine the resources on wheels. that's tesla truck. a mobile maker space for the masses. whether you're a school that wants a year long program or you're someone that wants to be part of a robot making workshop, tesla truck is the perfect solution. imagine this. a park or a parking lot with a 17-foot box truck. with cutting edge tools like 3-d printers and laser prints buzzing. people, learning and creating and collaborating. that's the vision. we're asking for $325,000 for a 20% stake in the business. we're going to use this to build and furnish our first truck. we'll use it for marketing and for curriculum development. we expect to earn over $650,000 in our first year with only one truck. so tesla truck is penetrating this market that's virtually untouched. please join us. >> good job. congratulations, first of all, on winning that competition. that's amazing.
what's going of within the -- >> this is a 3-d printed vaz from one of our printers. >> okay. i'm going to give you the pitch. one to ten, how was the pitch? and from you, while they're doing this, which was scarier, this or the competition? >> this, definitely. >> really? >> gene has a piercing look. >> i thought -- >> the blue eyes. >> that's very cool. okay, gene, one to ten the pitch. >> well, first of all, i'm going an eight to the pitch. the only reason why i'm not saying it's a perfect ten this is the way it is on the show when you're throwing out numbers i don't know. like what your finances are like, what you're going to be earning, i would need to see more. i think your approach is fantastic, the way you laid it out. you made me understand what you're trying to do in just a minute. i give you a lot of credit for that. >> all right. >> i give it a nine. you're very confident. i understood the idea. it was compelling and you obviously have a short amount of time to deliver a lot of information. the only reason i docked one
point, i would have liked to have understand your final audience. i know you mentioned schools but it was so brief. i missed that. i had to go back and think who was the audience for the truck. i would talk more about your final audience and who's going to be bringing you the dollars. >> one of the highest scores on the show so far, so congratulations here. and good luck with everything. >> thank you very much. >> thank you, guys, for your advice here. >> thank you. any of you out there have a product or a service and you want feedback from our elevator pitch panel on your chances of getting interested investors send us an e-mail. your business @msnbc.com. please don't forget to include a summary of what your company does, how much money you're looking to raise and then of course what you intend to do with that money. to learn more about today's show, just click on our website. it's openforum.com/your business. you'll find all of today's segments plus some web exclusive content with a lot more information to help your
business grow. you can also follow us on twitter. it's @msnbc your biz. don't forget to become a fan of the show on facebook and on instagram too. next time they call it the green rush. >> cannabis industry is the most challenging industry i have ever been involved with. i just -- it's crisis management by hour. >> we spend some time with the pioneering colorado entrepreneurs who are staking their claim in the risky business of pot. until then, remember, we make your business our business. if i can impart one lesson to a new business owner, it would be one thing i've learned is my philosophy is real simple american express open forum is an on-line community, that helps our members connect and share ideas to make smart business decisions. if you mess up, fess up. be your partners best partner. we built it for our members, but it's open for everyone.
there's not one way to do something. no details too small. american express open forum. this is what membership is. this is what membership does. 44%, that's how much latino vote that george bush got back in the 2004 presidential election. bush had come out in favor of a guest worker program. when he hit that 44% number, that became a new high water mark for republican presidential candidate among latino voters. not even ronald reagan back in 1984, that was the year he won 49 states in what was an epic landslide, not even ronald reagan did as well with latino voters as george w. bush did in